ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

3 October 2002


1. Naked agenda
2. Increasingly vocal objections heard to GM foods


Naked agenda

'[Bernd Halling, of EuropaBio] says that the green lobby has "built up this GMO issue to the point that it is illogical. [The famine in Africa] is the first issue that has the ability to destroy their credibility. In this case they overdid it. I want to know if they are going to accept responsibility for the people that will die as a result of the refusal of GM aid," said Halling.' from Of Famine and Food Aid: GM Food Internationally,

The biotech industry clearly sees the southern African situation as an ideal one to spin to their advantage. EuropaBio's Bernd Halling makes this crystal clear when he says of the industry's critics: this "is the first issue that has the ability to destroy their credibility."

In reality, as Dr Chuck Benbrook - a leading US agronomist and former Executive Director of the Board on Agriculture for the US National Academy of Sciences - has authoritatively commented, '..there is no shortage of non-GMO foods which could be offered to Zambia by public and private donors To a large extent, this "crisis" has been manufactured (might I say, "engineered") by those looking for a new source of traction in the evolving global debate over agricultural biotechnology. To use the needs of Zambians to score "political points" on behalf of biotechnology strikes many as unethical and indeed shameless.'

Let's be clear what this means. The industry together with its supporters in the US administration and beyond are exploiting southern Africa's hunger and risking the starvation of the people there because they see it as a great opportunity to destroy the credibility of their critics.   How sick is that?


2. Increasingly vocal objections heard to GM foods
October 2, 2002
AgBiotech Buzz Vol. 2: Issue 9

Kristin Dawkins, Vice President for international programs at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Kristin Dawkins understands why the famine-ridden African country of Zambia might choose to refuse shipments of genetically modified corn. This is simply one of the most high-profile cases of countries restricting, regulating, or rejecting GM foods, she says Ðchoices countries are making for reasons ranging from safety concerns, to worries that farmers will not be able to save seed from year to year, to basic economics.

More than 35 countries have some kind of restrictions on GM food, whether they be mandatory labeling or outright bans, Dawkins says. "Every few months the list of countries that have some kind of regulatory restrictions grows."

European countries have long and vocally been opposed to GM crops. New Zealand has had labeling restrictions in place and recently banned imports. States in Australia have now established zones where GM crops cannot be grown. The list of countries that have ratified the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety - an international system for regulating GMO trade - is also lengthening.  India, Denmark, Austria, and the fifteen European Union nations have joined in recent weeks.  Mexico - the country where corn originated - allows GM foods to be imported as long as they are labeled but has not allowed GM corn to be planted in the country for fears that the gene modifications will slip into the native corn so important for biological diversity. Dawkins says the contamination of Mexico's wild corn stock shows that seeds imported as food can enter the environment because farmers will plant those seeds even though the government officially forbids it.

Dawkins also points to growing international support for Zambia1s right to refuse food aid if it includes GM crops. South Africa, for example, has offered to supply Zambia with non-GM corn and wheat and Japan has proffered financial assistance to the United Nations to supply non-GM food to Zambia. Kofi Annan, secretary-general of the United Nations, has reaffirmed Zambia1s right to ban GM foods.

"Zambians are finding other options beyond GMOs," says Dawkins. "Promoters of GM are being cynical by trying to force this issue, and I think it1s backfiring. If you1re trying to solve the hunger problem, locally adapted seed is what's needed," she concludes. "GM crops can't be harvested and reused, they're more expensive, and are only available through huge multinational corporations. It's illogical if you are trying to solve the hunger problem."

Destruction of wild land to provide crop land might be unnecessary if there were more equitable processes for land distribution in the countries where this is occurring, she says. Further, she points out that crops that are drought- and salt- tolerant can be developed through methods other than genetic engineering. The upshot, she says, is clear: the many uncertainties and potential costs associated with genetic engineering will slowly but surely drive more countries to reject the technology.

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